Blyth veteran aiming to set three world records in Atlantic challenge

A veteran is aiming to take on one of the biggest rowing challenges – and set up to three world records in the process.

Friday, 25th June 2021, 10:00 am
Blind veteran Stephen Lees to take on rowing challenge.
Blind veteran Stephen Lees to take on rowing challenge.

Steve Lees, from Blyth is aiming to become the first blind veteran to row across the Atlantic.

He is part of a four-man crew – all of whom are veterans – who are taking part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in December 2022.

They are part of Team Emotive, who will be rowing from the Canary Islands to Antigua for the challenge, raising money for the charity Veterans at Ease in the process.

The boat Team Emotive, including Stephen Lees, will be using to row across the Atlantic.

Steve, who is registered blind after losing most of his sight after suffering a stroke, said: “This is all about raising awareness of Veterans at Ease and their work, and veterans who may be struggling with their mental health.

"We as soldiers are asked to go to war but it never leaves the soldier so it’s about dealing with that afterwards, that is one of the things we’re highlighting.”

Team Emotive – made up of Garreth Murrell, Jason Watkin and Chris Hardy – will be joining other competitors in setting off from the Canary Islands on December 22, 2022, and aiming to complete the 3,000 unaided in around 50 days – a total of three million oar strokes.

The quartet will be rowing two hours on and two hours off, burning more than 8,000 calories a day.

Steve said: “One day Garreth asked me out of the blue if I wanted to do this and I said yes.

"Life is about opportunities, if you are given one you take it.

“It’s not normally something I would do. It’s going to be a hell of a challenge.

"We anticipate it will be brutal, exhilarating and life changing.”

As part of the challenge, Steve is aiming to become the first blind veteran to row the Atlantic, the fastest blind veteran to row the Atlantic and the fastest veteran to row the Atlantic.

And as part of their training, they are planning to row across the North Sea to Belgium, which would be another world first for a blind veteran.

Steve added: “A lot of work is going into this. I have to map everything in my mind about where everything goes, moving about the boat, getting into the pod to eat and sleep, and rowing for 12 hours a day.”

Training had been impacted by the Covid pandemic and lockdowns, but now the team have begun practising initially rowing on the River Tees.

The team have received donations from residents, businesses and supporters to help buy the boat and ensure it is sea-ready as well as for supplies and training.

And people are also being offered the chance to sponsor a mile for £5, which one completed will appear on the team’s website.

Steve was also keen to thank businesses who had got behind the team so far with donations and support, including Blyth Deli, Maharaj's Lounge, Mr Hay’s Chinese takeaway, Juliettas, and Frameworks.

For more information visit the Team Emotive Facebook page.